What do you do….

…when you’ve moved into a house where the back yard has high fences and your sweet lil puppy dog has absolutely zero view on the world?

A shady corner of the yard

Well, you go to Hobby Lobby and you find a really cool piece of framed decorative metal (on sale for $30), and you cut two boards out of the gate.  Then you put your cool bit of metal over the hole you (or your amazing hubby) just made in your gate.

View from inside the yard

Voila!  A window in the wall, a perfect peep hole for toddlers and malamutes.

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Peekaboo, I see you!

Peeking out

Not bad for $30 and 20 minutes of work.

Just a glimpse

Dog tested and approved.

 

Our back yard

I’ve been having lots of fun lately working on our back yard. It started out as a very barren rectangle of grass and concrete, and even after a bit of work the grass is still in need of some help.  But in general the yard is looking lots more interesting these days, so I thought I’d show you some photos.  As always, you can click on the photos to enlarge them.

I got the yard whipped into shape just in time– on Sunday we had a bunch of family over for a late Easter celebration.  Just for fun we did even more Easter egg hunting with the little ones, and thanks to the new landscaping, we had lots more spaces to hide eggs.

Tho some of course landed right in the middle of the yard.  After all, our little hunters range in age from 1 to 4.

My very favorite photo is this one of my momma with her youngest great-grandchild Meg, enjoying a fun little swing that I splurged on.

My momma

We may not have space for a whole swing set here, but a swing like this is a perfect fit.   One of these days I may even steal a little time to sit in it myself!  Preferably with a kiddo to cuddle.

Starting on the back yard

I’ve been derailed for the past few days by the dreaded puking bug.  Today I’m feeling better though I still have not gone beyond toast and Sprite and cold cereal in the food department.  And sadly, now Julianna is sick.  Bah, humbug.  Hoping everyone else will continue to feel healthy.

I wanted to tell you about the beginnings of our back yard project, at least the part that I began last week before illness struck. Our back yard at our new house is incredibly small.  It’s 30 feet from the back door to the back fence, and that includes about 10 feet of concrete patio.  Our living room is deeper than our back yard.

One of the reasons we moved was to have less yard work and upkeep, so that’s good. But this box of grass edged with fence and concrete is pretty boring.  I am eager to transform it into something that would be a fun place for entertaining, despite its small size.  So I’ve been doing a bit of scheming.

Here are some of the ideas I have so far, drawn up with a cool program that I looooove called Chief Architect.

Yard Ideas

The grey in the drawing is the already existing concrete. The patio cover doesn’t exist yet, and we may actually do a pergola instead of a fully covered patio—still thinking through that.

In the left lower corner of the drawing I’m planning a lawn swing under some kind of a trellis draped with creeping vines.  Or possibly we’d even set up the trellis as a swing set, like the photo below, with a swing or two for bigger kids alongside one for little ones.  We won’t have space for something that big, but you get the idea.

Photocredit: BHG.com

Photocredit: BHG.com

Against the house to the left of the patio is a narrow flowerbed where we will try a tomato plant or two.  John isn’t sure how tomatoes will do there though, with only east and south sun.  The bed is shaded in the afternoon.

Here’s a view of the yard in that direction, which shows the space where I was imagining a trellis swing, as well as the little flowerbed against the house, which you can’t actually see because of the grandkids’ bikes. The bikes are strategically placed to block the cats from going  to the bathroom there, and will be moved at tomato-planting time.

Yard towar the south

Side note:  all four of our cats successfully made the move from the farm to the subdivision- a major miracle since two of them are rather wild barn cats who don’t like each other a bit, and we weren’t at all sure that they’d stay put. They did, but boy, do they look bored these days!

The above picture also gives you and idea of how small the yard is.  🙂  But there’s lots of concrete to set tables on, so that’s good.  We can feed a crowd!

To the right of the patio (in the yard plan) is another narrow flowerbed against the house that is already in existence.  It already contains a couple of rose bushes and I am thinking it might fit some cucumbers on a narrow trellis.  Are there any shade-loving cucumbers?  I need to ask John…

On the right side of my yard plan is a seating area around a fire pit, with a narrow space between the seating area and the fence where I would like to have some plantings.  This is not yet in existence, but it will be our first yard project. I am picturing a dwarf butterfly bush and maybe a couple small evergreens in that space, along with a few tomato plants and peppers.

The other day Julianna and I went to Lowe’s and found some nice rough-top landscape blocks.  My son in law who does landscaping suggest that this type of landscape block is easier to set as flowerbed edging than blocks of a more uniform shape, since they are more forgiving of slightly uneven placement.  I wasn’t sure how many we’d need, but I started with 40, which fit in the back of my little car quite nicely.

blocks

The next day I spread landscape fabric across the living room floor and figured out about how big an area we’d need to fit several chairs and benches, as well as a fire pit space.

Then it was time to stake down the landscape fabric in that corner of the yard and edge it with blocks to try out the design.

Here’s how it looked from the patio after I got done playing with the design.

Firepit area

And here’s the view from an upstairs window.

Firepit area

Looking at it from above, I can tell that I’d like the space to be just a little broader and more rounded. So I am going to get more blocks (yup, I used all 40) and pull the space just a bit more out from the corner.  While I am rearranging the space, I’ll weed-kill the lawn area that will be covered by the landscape fabric, and add another layer of landscape fabric for more weed protecting.  Then it’ll be time to bring in some flat blocks for the front edge of the space, and add gravel in the center.

Still lots to do, but I am excited to see the beginnings of the space laid out.  And oddly enough, having something laid out in that corner of the yard makes it look bigger than it did with just grass in the corner, something I didn’t actually expect.

I’ll keep you posted!

 

Simplicity

I enjoyed reading these pieces and thought you might also

On Living Set Apart

Simple (and small) Living

Ready or Not

 

Then there’s this brilliant pine cone idea from A Fanciful Twist

Now we’re cooking with gas

I think I told you that just before we moved out of the old house, in the midst of repainting and recarpeting and replacing the whole kitchen,  our oven broke, forcing us to buy brand a brand new range also—a mite frustrating after all the money we’d already poured into the house, especially given the fact that we wouldn’t even get to enjoy it ourselves.   When we moved, after all that work, I was set to be content with the new house as it was for awhile, including the old(ish) white appliances. No sense fixing them til they broke, we figured.

Sure, the dishwasher was rusty, but it worked.

We couldn’t quite figure out why the ice maker in the fridge didn’t work, but I figured an ice maker wasn’t essential.  John and Z sure missed it though.

Then the biggest burner on the stove broke.  I definitely missed that. Grr.

Then the rusty dishwasher stopped draining, and it became impossible to tell if the dishwasher had run or not. Hmm.  Maybe it was time to think about new appliances for this house after all.

When one of our grown kids mentioned they were looking for a range-hood microwave (white to match their other appliances) we decided to give that to them since it was the only thing that still worked perfectly here.  And then we steeled ourselves for the budget bite and went hunting for kitchen appliances.

After hunting around, we found a nice big discontinued-model fridge for $899 at Lowe’s–not bad at all for a stainless fridge of that size.  And lo and behold, Lowe’s also had decent prices on the other appliances too.

I’ve been longing for a gas range for quite some time, so we decided to investigate that option. I discovered, much to my surprise, that a gas range isn’t any spendier than an electric range.  In fact, the mid-level one that I picked was $400 LESS than the flat-top range we bought for the old house and (sob) left behind.

We still had to get the kitchen plumbed for gas, and once we’d added in that cost, the gas range was a *tetch* spendier than the range at the old house.   Darn. But the plumber, who turns out to be a neighbor of ours, very kindly plumbed the back patio for gas while he was at it, which gave us a lot more bang for the buck.  Now we can hook our barbecue up, and never fill a propane tank again. Woohoo!

Here’s the kitchen with the old appliances, when the previous owner still lived here.

KitchenDining

Here’s the gas range installed– I’m completely delighted with my new toy tool.  You might be able to see that it has a center griddle element– haven’t tried that out yet, but it looks like fun, doesn’t it?

Range

And here’s the whole kitchen with its new shinies.

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I am going to be a bit fussy cleaning them to keep them looking nice – and I very much hope we are done with appliance purchases for a long time!

Last night after cooking dinner on my awesome new stove, we sat down to eat and I said jubilantly, “ALL our appliances work now!”

“Shhh!!” John said. “The washer and dryer will hear you!”

Let’s hope not.

Family Dinner

I cannot tell you how thrilled I am with this new house, especially when it comes to having company!  Most weekends John and I invite our kids all over for a meal, sometimes in the evening, or sometimes for brunch.  Often John’s mom and my parents are able to come, and the kids are welcome to invite friends.  So almost always we have 20+ people here.

In the old house we put the dining table diagonal sending it out into the living room so that we could seat that many bodies at the table.  Then our 6 little grandkids would get out toys, and pretty soon it was difficult to even get around in the room, let alone find a good place to sit.  Here at the new house, I’ve chosen to leave one end of the living room empty except for the piano.  That allows us to add two 8 foot folding tables onto the end of the regular dining table, making it truly huge.  And still the living room is spacious, even after the kids have strung toys around the room.  We are so much enjoying all the space.  Here are a couple of shots of the table all ready for company this past weekend.  I meant to also get a photo of the table full of loved ones, but as usual, I was too much enjoying the time to stop and take a photo.

Longtable

Longtable2This week we handed over keys to our old house which was a little sad  (such a good house it’s been for us) but mostly a relief.  We have put so many hours of work in there, even after moving– driving back and forth between the houses over and over and over — that it is lovely to just have the one place to focus on for now.

Today John is organizing the garage, and planning out the shop that he will be building in the back yard.  At the moment there are piles of tarped-off wood at the side of the house near the garage, as well as other random things that just will not fit into the garage.  It’s not terrible, but I am looking forward to having a bit more indoor storage for these things, as it will really make the area at the side of the house look more organized.

I have been doing lots of thinking about what we will be putting in our back yard to help with outdoor entertaining.  John got a new barbecue grill the other day– a key piece!  🙂  We are also hoping to cover the patio with something that looks trellis-lattice-work-ish.  (Then I can string lights!  🙂 )

Speaking of lights, (with a little help from Julianna, age 11) I installed those $29 Costco bargain lights on the exterior of the house, and we couldn’t be happier with them.

Here’s a picture of the new light side by side with the light that was beside the back door.

lights

Here’s a picture of the house with the original lights.  Certainly the lights are fine, but definitely builder-grade and nothing memorable.

OurHouse

And here’s the front of the house with the new lights installed. At the distance that I took the photos, it doesn’t look all that different, maybe.  But in real life it is a fun upgrade.HouseNewLights

They are LED’s — very bright at night, and thanks to the wavy glass, they throw an interesting pattern of light out there.  It turns out they also come with a light sensor, which means they turn on automatically at night, and then off again during the day. Since I didn’t bother to read the packaging when I picked up the lights at Costco, that was a totally unexpected bonus.  So much fun.

Also in this pix is Em, having fun with her ripstick.  The two youngest girls are enjoying something they’ve never had in their lives– sidewalks for scootering and skateboarding.  What a concept!  They do, however, also miss the chickens, a fact that rather surprised me, since when we were living out in the country, feeding the chickens was NOT the highlight of their day, especially in the cold, cold winter.  I guess there are tradeoffs everywhere!

What’s new with you?  Are you looking forward to spring as much as I am?

 

Getting back to normal

Our house went on the market on Wednesday.  (Here’s the link to the virtual tour, if you want to see it.)  Twenty-four hours later we’d already had 5 showings and one offer — an OFFER.  Our agent is coming at noon today to present us that offer.  Crazy to think that (maybe, maybe) it could be sold this fast.  Crossing fingers that all goes well.

After months of painting and packing and cleaning and fluffing, I’m looking forward to our spare time not being taken up by the house and for life to start feeling normal again.

And already, with the bulk of the work done at the old house, I’m feeling more relaxed. Monday I made a big batch of bone broth, which I hadn’t done in awhile. Next on my list is a triple batch of enchiladas for the freezer. Tuesday I printed out the girls’ spring school schedule– those daily check boxes help a lot with accountability.  Wednesday I made biscuits to go with chicken soup.the start of a good pot of soup

I’ve decorated the piano with some Valentine’s Day finery, and have a craft or two up my sleeve to do with anyone so inclined.  I think sometime this weekend I’ll probably make some bacon lentil soup. And hey– I’m even blowing the dust off my blog.  Feels good.

I just heard about a website that I love the idea of– it’s called BuyMeOnce.Com and features items that should last you a lifetime.  So many things these days are made so cheaply that I love the idea of durable quality.  Just about the only things I’ve bought that I’m certain would last that long are my cast iron skillets, which I bought very affordably at a farm supply store in the camping section.  I’m thinking BuyMeOnce.Com is spendier, but there are some items that might justify that additional cost.

Speaking of shopping, if you live near a Costco but don’t yet have a membership, you might be interested in this screaming-good deal on Living Social:  $55 for a year of membership that also includes a $20 Costco gift card, free batteries, passes to the food court, and all sorts of other goodies.  Kinda makes me sad that I’m already a member and can’t get this deal.  Disclosure:  if you click on the link and get the deal, my daughter earns credit on Living Social.  Super good deal if you’re needing a Costco membership!  🙂

 

 

More house pictures!

I’m so excited to show you some photos of our home, all staged and ready to go on the market next Monday! A friend of mine owns a staging business called Graceful Designs and did a beautiful job of highlighting all the hard work we’ve done to make our much-beloved family home comfortable and lovely for its next owner. Our hope is that someone will totally fall in love with it, and go on to make beautiful family memories of their own!

Here’s the living room:

living7 living (5)

Our lovely remodeled granite kitchen:

kitchen6
kitchen3
kitchen2
kitchen7
kitchen1

Here are some photos of the master suite. master (2)
bath5 bath4 bath1

A cozy upstairs bedroom:

boysroom2

boysroom1

The upstairs bonus room

Lola (9)

I’ll share a link to the listing site next week with even more photos!

sneak peek of kitchen loveliness

Fixing up the old house to sell has been completely consuming lately, but as you can tell by this shot of the lovely new kitchen, it is all coming together.  Here is a picture of the kitchen before, just to refresh your memory.

 

And here is the new kitchen, complete with brand new cabinets and granite.

 

Kitchen2

 

More coming soon, I promise.

Love, Unrationed

One thing after another has been thwarting me in the blogging department lately. First, of course, the move. Then it took 2 weeks to get internet at the new place. Plus, before the move one of my laptops stopped charging, and this week, my tiny backup travel ipad-ish thing ALSO stopped charging. Arg. I am currently on hubby’s computer, and just today I broke down and ordered a new laptop, so hopefully when it arrives, my computerish problems will be done, at least for awhile.

I wanted to check in briefly this afternoon to share two things with you.  First up is this awesome youtube video showing how to make blinds into roman shades.  I am totally doing this in my bedroom using room-darkening fabric.  Should be both cute AND awesome for day-sleeping which I do a couple days a week.

Second, I wanted to tell you about Stephanie’s Etsy shop where she creates all sorts of inspirational art.  Awhile back, she wrote to tell me that she used the title of my post Love, Unrationed as the name for her Etsy shop–I was so touched.

LoveUnrationed

If while browing her site, you happen to find a bit of encouragement that you’d like somewhere in your own home, she’s offering a coupon code for you all!  How neat is that?  To receive 40% off, just type GO40OFF into the coupon field when you place an order on her Etsy site.  Happy looking!